Law change, helped by Gazette efforts, to come into force

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A change in the law governing nuisance calls, in which a Gazette campaign played a major role, comes into force today.

Previously, firms can only be punished for cold-calling if the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) can prove a call caused ‘substantial damage or substantial distress’.

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But from today, that legal requirement is to be removed and it will now be up to the ICO to assess when a serious contravention has taken place.

The changes were announced towards the end of February and followed the Gazette’s trip last July to meet Information Commissioner Christopher Graham at Westminster to hand over our 2,000-name petition and readers’ stories gathered in our Stop Nuisance Robocalls campaign, which was launched after a torrent of late-night automated calls left residents across Northumberland angry, upset and confused.

Mr Graham said the robocalls dossier, featuring Gazette reports, comments from our Facebook site and the petition, would help towards imposing tighter regulations on companies which continuously flout the law, describing it as ‘exhibit A in the response I am going to be making to the Government consultation’.

In February, he reiterated his praise, saying: “The people of north Northumberland and the Northumberland Gazette should be patting themselves on their back. This very welcome change has been a long time coming, but in the end, the evidence from citizens and consumers was overwhelming, so it’s a victory all round.”

The ICO has the power to impose a civil monetary penalty of up to £500,000 for the most serious breaches of the Data Protection Act.